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Pipistrel

Norway makes first electric test flight

Widerøe’s CEO says in an interview that he wants an entirely electric fleet by 2030, while Norwegian is more cautious.

The inaugural flight of an electric two-seater plane takes place today, to take off from Oslo Airport with Norway’s transport minister as a passenger.

The light aircraft, made by the Slovenian manufacturer Pipistrel, can fly for up to one hour, and airport operator Avinor says the test flight is a sign of things to come, demonstrating the feasibility of pollution-free aviation.

The regional airline Widerøe sees no major technological barriers ahead, Bloomberg reports, and aims to launch its first commercial plane using some form of electric power within the next 10 years.

“Today, we fly the smallest aircraft on the shortest routes, based on an aging technology that was developed in the 1970s,” its chief executive Stein Nilsen said in an interview.

“There’s been much development in the aviation sector, but not on the smallest aircraft.”

Western Europe’s biggest exporter of oil and gas has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. About half of all new cars sold there are electric, and Nilsen compares this to what he thinks will happen in the aviation industry.

“Those who need to drive fossil-fuelled cars will still buy these cars, but total emissions are nevertheless coming down,” he says. “We must have a similar view for the aviation industry.”

Fleet replacement
Norwegian is more reticent about the technology, with spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen saying: “When electric aircraft are able to replace today’s commercial machines, we will of course be interested.”

Widerøe, however, wants to replace its entire fleet with the new technology by 2030.

“We have reached out to manufacturers to motivate them to create an aircraft designed for Norway with a new technological platform,” Nilsen says, naming Boeing-backed startup Zunum Aero. “We don’t see any technological barriers that will make this impossible to achieve.”

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